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Game 1 to La Salle

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La Salle finally got back at archrival Ateneo with a heart-stopping 21-25, 29-27, 25-22, 25-20 victory yesterday to inch closer to retaining the UAAP women’s volleyball crown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Lady Spikers relied on a hard-fought second-set triumph to regain the momentum following an erratic start in this best-of-three finals series.

Veteran setter Kim Fajardo, Kim Dy, and Desiree Cheng became La Salle’s sparkplug particularly in the fourth set, where they untangled themselves from an 18-all deadlock en route to the Game 1 win.

The victory was sweet for La Salle as it avenged its two eliminations losses to Ateneo: a 26-24, 26-24, 21-25, 25-17 decision in the first meeting and a 12-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-19 in the second.

“Naghahabol lang talaga kami sa depensa. Medyo aggressive yung Ateneo sa baba,” said La Salle Coach Ramil De Jesus.

A reception error only snapped La Salle’s run from an 18-all tie to 21-19, before Fajardo’s back-to-back aces and Dy’s quick attack put the Lady Spikers at matchpoint, 24-19.

Ateneo briefly answered back with a down-the-line spike from Michelle Morente, but La Salle was eager to close it out with Dy nailing the matchpoint win.

Tine Tiamzon and Dy topscored for La Salle with 15 and 14 points, respectively, while Fajardo worked all around with 10 points highlighted by seven aces along with 10 digs and 37 excellent sets.

La Salle started out sluggishly by committing 11 unforced errors in the first set, but slowly managed to recover in the second frame by rallying from a 22-17 deficit.

Meanwhile, two-time defending men’s champion Ateneo leaned on its rock-solid net defense in the deciding set as it survived a resilient National University, 25-22, 21-25, 22-25, 25-18, 15-13, to move within a win of a title sweep.

Josh Villanueva and Rex Intal did the defensive damage for the Blue Eagles, where they swatted away four of the team’s 12 blocks in the fifth frame that proved vital in the two-hour match.

“NU was giving us power (in the fifth set), so we have to play with our minds. We need to be more resilient to beat them,” said Ateneo Coach Oliver Almadro.